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Besides, this state of suspension which God assumes in the text is violent, and cannot last long. Like motives of patience do not concur at all times: witness the kingdom of Judah mentioned in the text, which was at length given up to the fury of the Chaldeans; witness this Ephraim, I mean the kingdom of the ten tribes, concerning whose destiny the prophet seems in the text to waver; however, at length God determined their dispersion, and the tribes were confounded with those idolatrous and wicked people, whose immorality and idolatry they had too exactly copied. All the help of history, and all the penetration of historians are necessary to discover any trace of these people: if indeed the penetration of historians and travellers have discovered any thing about them.
violent combat is fought. To desire to enjoy the | which nature and art seemed to have rendered pleasures of both virtue and sin is to enjoy nei- impregnable. They will describe both armies ther, and to partake of the inconveniences of animated with a fury unknown before, disputboth. To be at a point, to take a part, and to ing in carnage and blood with efforts unparaltake the wise part, is the source of true peace leled both for the greatness of the slaughter, and solid felicity. and the glory of the victory. They will represent the most fruitful kingdom of Europe under all the misery of scarcity, in this more cruel than famine, it inflicts a more slow and lingering death. They will speak of the labourers howling for bread in the public roads; and will tell of "a sudden ferocity next to madness possessing multitudes, men seizing public convoys, snatching the bread from one another's hands, decency, fidelity, and religion being dead."*
But why go back to remote periods of the world to prove a truth which our own eyes now behold in abundance of bloody demonstrations? If there ever were a year from the foundation of the world, if there has ever been a year proper to prove these terrible truths, it is that which lately came to an end. The dreadful events that distinguished it, and of which we were if not the victims, at least the witnesses, are too recent and too well known, to need description. This year will be proposed to the most distant posterity as one of the most alarming periods of divine vengeance. Future preachers will quote it as St. Jude formerly did the subversion of Sodom, and the universal deluge. They will tell your posterity, that in the year one thousand seven hundred and nine the patience of God, weary with Europe, enveloped in one general sentence friend and foe, almost the whole of that beautiful part of the world. They will say that all the scourges of heaven in concert were let loose to destroy guilty nations. They will lead their auditors over the vast kingdoms of the north, and show them the Borysthenes stained with blood, contagion flying rapidly as on the wings of the winds, from city to city, from province to province, from kingdom to kingdom, ravaging in one week so many thousand persons, in the next so many thousand more. They will tell them of the kingdoms which were claimed by two princes, and by lively images of the cruel barbarities practised there, they will render it doubtful whether it were a desire of conquering or depopulating these kingdoms that directed the arms of these rivals. They will represent that theatre of blood in Flanders, and describe in glowing colours troops on both sides animated with equal fury, some to defend posts which seemed to need no defence but themselves, others to force intrenchments
* Our author refers to the battle of Malplaquet, fought September the 11th, 1709, between the French army consisting of one hundred and twenty thousand men commanded by Marshal Villars, and the confederate army consisting of nearly an equal number under the command of the Duke of Marlborough. The confederate army obtained the victory at the price of twenty thousand of their best troops.
So many victims sacrificed to divine vengeance, my brethren, so many plagues wasting Europe, so many shocks of the earth, above all, so great a share as our crimes had in kindling the anger of God, should seem to shake the foundations of this state, and to convulse and kill the greatest part of this auditory. Yet this state still subsists, thanks to thine infinite mercy my God, the state yet subsists, and though afflicted, distressed, and weary with a long and cruel war, it subsists as rich and as splendid as any country in the world. These hearers too, yet subsist, thanks to thy mercy my God, our eyes behold them, and by a kind of miracle they have been preserved to the beginning of another year. Preserved did I say? They have been crowned. And how does this year begin, this year which we never expected to see, after a year distinguished by the three great evils, pestilence, famine, and war, how does it begin with us? It begins with the smiles of heaven, with a participation of what is most august in religion, with the descent of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, with the renewing of our covenant with God, and, if I may be allowed to say so, it begins with an acknowledgment on God's part, that his love will not allow of our destruction, how much soever we deserve to be destroyed. “0 Ephraim, how shall I give thee up? O Israel, how shall I deliver thee up? How shall Í make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together." Ah! why must a joy so pure be mixed with a just fear that you will abuse his goodness? Why, across such a multitude of benefits must we be constrained to look at vengeance behind? O republic! nourished by heaven, " upon which the eyes of the Lord thy God are always fixed, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year," Deut. xi. 12; why must we be driven to-day to utter unpleasant omens, along with the most affectionate benedictions? And you believers who hear us, why, now that we wish you a happy new year, must we be obliged to foretell an unhappy one?
For what security have we that this year will be more holy than the last? have we any certainty that this communion will be more effectual than others? What security have we that the resolutions of this day will have more influence over our lives than all before? Can we be sure that the devotion of this day will
Flechier's pastoral letter.
not be "
as a morning cloud, and as the early dew that goeth away?" And consequently what security have we that this will not be the last year of this republic, the last communion, the last invitation of mercy that will ever be given to all this assembly?
Ah, my brethren, my dear brethren, behold the God who heweth us by his prophets, behold nim who has slain men by the words of his mouth, behold him, who in the presence of his angels waiting in this assembly, behold him once more saying to you, "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as the morning cloud, that goeth away!"
Having considered the last year, turn your attention to this, which we are now beginning. If, instead of such vague discourses as we address to you, God should this moment give us light into futurity, a sight of his book of decrees, a foreknowledge of the destiny of all our hearers, and impel us to inform each of you how this new revolution would interest you, what cries would be heard in this auditory! There you would see that haughty man, full-blown with vanity, confounded in the same dust with the meanest of mankind. Here you would see this voluptuous woman who refuses nothing to This morning you received the Lord's Sup- her senses, lying on a sick-bed, expiring in per, and with it peace of conscience, inward agony between the pain of a mortal malady consolation, ineffable pleasure, "joy unspeak- and the just fear of falling into the hands of an able and full of glory," if indeed you did feel angry God. Yonder you would behold that this, and if these are not in regard to you officer now crowned with laurels, and about to sounds without meaning. What! shall four reap a new harvest of glory in the next camdays, shall four days efface all these impres-paign, covered with tragical dust, weltering in sions? What! shall a worldly society, will a his own blood, and finding a grave where his sensual temptation, can a profane raillery bring imagination appointed victory to meet him. In you to violate all your resolutions, and to be all parts of this auditory, on the right hand, on guilty of perjury towards God? Do not fall the left, before, behind, by your side, in your into the puerility mentioned a little while ago, own pew, I should show you carcasses, and do not think the great truths you have felt to- probably he who hears us with the most indifday will cease to be, because you cease to think ference, and who secretly despises such as of them. Jesus died for you, Jesus gave him- tremble at our preaching, would himself serve self for you, Jesus demands your heart, Jesus to prove the truth we are delivering, and occupy promises you an eternity of happiness; this is the first place in this fatal list. true to-day, this will be true to-morrow and all next week, during all your temptations and pleasures; and what, pray, can the world offer you in lieu of the heaven that came into your conscience? what to supply the place of that Redeemer, who this morning gave himself to you in a manner so affectionate?
My brethren, Providence has not honoured us with any new revelations, we have not a spirit of prophecy: but you have eyes, you have a memory, you have reason, and you are certain death will sacrifice many of you in the course of this year. On whom will the tempest fall? Who will first verify our predictions? You cannot tell; and on this ground you will brave death, on this you build castles of vanity, which attach you to the world.
There are two great motives among many others, which chiefly urge your conversion today: your receiving the Lord's Supper this morning, and the uncertainty of living all this year.
To this first motive add the other, the vanity of life, a vanity described by the renewing of the year. I am aware how feeble this motive is to many of us. The past insures us for the future, and because we have never died, it seems to us as if we never should die.
of their parents? How many Marthas and Marys, bedewing the grave of a brother with their tears, a brother dead four days, and by this time infectious? How many plaintive voices are heard in Rama? How many Rachels weeping and refusing to be comforted, because their "children are not?"
My brethren, you compel us to-day to set before you the most mournful images, which can possibly strike your eyes. You oblige us to open wounds beginning to heal, and to anticipate the sorrows of the present year; but what can be done? If we cannot detach men from the world, we must tear them away by force.
Did we deceive you last year when we told you, that many who were present in this place on new year's day, would not live through the year? Has not the event fully verified the sad prediction? Answer me, ye disconsolate widows, who saw your husbands, objects of the purest and tenderest love, expire in your arms. Answer me, ye children in mourning, who followed your parents to the grave. How many afflicted Jacobs are weeping for the loss of a mother? How many Davids are saying in the bitterness of their heart, "O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son. Would God I had died for thee!" How many " Benonis, sons of sorrow," born at the "departing of the soul"
My brethren, establish your tranquillity and happiness on foundations more firm and solid. If you be affected with the motives set before you this day, and now resolve to labour in the work of your salvation, only you fear the weakness of your resolutions, we will give you one more lesson easy and practicable, that is, that every day of this year you retire one quarter of an hour and think of death. There put on in thought your shroud, lie down in your coffin, light your funeral tapers. There, observe your family weeping, your physician aghast, your long and melancholy train. There consider your friends, your children, your titles, your treasures removed for ever. There strike your imagination with the salutary ideas of books opened, thrones prepared, actions weighed in just balances. There lose yourself in the dark economy of a future state.
Having heard our exhortations, receive our benedictions. First, I turn myself toward the walls of that palace, where laws of equity, the glory and felicity of these provinces, are made; where the important questions which influence religion and the state, and shake all Europe,
are agitated. Ye protectors of the church, our | steps! While you subdue your enemies may you experience this maxim of the Wise Man, he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city."
masters and sovereigns, may God confirm the
I turn myself also to you, illustrious personages, who represent in these provinces the chief heads of the Christian world, and who in a manner exhibit in this assembly princes, electors, republics, and monarchs, may God open his richest treasures in favour of those sacred persons who are gods upon earth, and whose august characters you bear to enable them to support sovereign power with dignity! God grant they may always have such ministers as you, who understand how to make supreme authority both respected and feared! God grant a confederacy formed for the security of all nations and people may be continued! And that my wishes may be more worthy of the majesty of this place, and the holiness of my ministry, I pray God to unite you not only by the same temporal interest but by the same religion; may you have the same God for your Father, the same Jesus for your Redeemer, the same spirit for your guide, the same glory for your hope! I own at the sight of these lords of the universe, to whom I have the honour to address myself, I feel my insignificance, and I had suppressed all these wishes in my heart, had I not known that I speak the sense of all this assembly, the benedictions of all the church, and the congratulations of the state.
You also we bless, Levites holy to the Lord, ambassadors of the King of kings, ministers of the new covenant, who have written on your foreheads "holiness to the Lord," and on your breasts "the names of the children of Israel;" and you, elders and deacons of this church, who are as it were associated with us in the work of the ministry, may God animate you with the zeal of his house! God grant you may always take for your model the "chief Shepherd and Bishop of our souls!" God grant after you have "preached to others, you may not be cast away!" May you "turn many to righteousness," and afterward "shine as the stars for ever and ever!"
Receive our benediction, fathers and mothers of families, happy to see yourselves born again in the persons of your children, happier still to bring those into the "assembly of the firstborn," whom you have brought into this valley of trouble! God grant your houses may be sanctuaries, and your children offerings to the "Father of spirits," the "God of the spirits of all flesh!"
Accept our good wishes, officers and soldiers, you, who after so many battles are going to war again, you, who after escaping so many dangers are entering on a new march of perils: may the God of battles fight incessantly for you! May victory constantly follow your
Young people, receive our blessing: may you ever be preserved from the contagion of the world you are entering! May you devote the inestimable days you enjoy to your salvation! Now may you "remember your Creator in the days of your youth!"
Receive our good wishes, old people, who have already one foot in the grave, let us rather say, who have already your heart in heaven where your treasure is:" May you find your "inward man renewed day by day, as your outward man perisheth!" May you feel your soul strengthened as your bodies decay, and when your house of clay falls may the gates of heaven open to you!
Desolate countries, to you also we extend our good wishes and prayers. You have been many years the unhappy theatre of the most bloody war that ever was. May the "sword of the Lord drunk with blood," retire into its "scabbard, rest and be still!" May the destroying angel who ravages your fields, cease to execute his commission! May your "swords be beaten into ploughshares, and your spears into pruning-hooks," and may the dew of heaven succeed the shower of blood that for so many years has been falling upon you.
Are our benedictions exhausted? Alas! on this joyful day can we forget our griefs? Ye happy inhabitants of these provinces, so often troubled with a recital of our afflictions, we rejoice in your prosperity, will you refuse to compassionate our misfortunes? And you, "firebrands plucked out of the burning," sad and venerable ruins of our unhappy churches, my dear brethren, whom the misfortunes of the times have cast on this shore, can we forget the miserable remnants of ourselves? O ye groaning captives, ye weeping priests, ye sighing virgins, ye festivals profaned, ye ways of Zion mourning, ye untrodden paths, ye sad complaints, move, O move all this assembly. "O Jerusalem, if I forget thee, let my right hand forget her cunning. Not remember thee! let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy! O Jerusalem, peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sake, I will now say peace be within thee!" May God be moved, if not with the ardour of our prayers, yet with the excess of our afflictions; if not with our misfortunes, yet with the desolation of his sanctuaries, if not with the bodies we carry all about the world, yet with the souls that are torn from us!
And thou dreadful prince, whom I once honoured as my king, and whom I yet respect as a scourge in the hand of Almighty God, thou also shall have a part in my good wishes. These provinces which thou threatenest, but which the arm of the Lord protects; this country which thou fillest with refugees, but fugitives animated with love; these walls which contain a thousand martyrs of thy making, but whom religion renders victorious, all these yet resound benedictions in thy favour. God grant the fatal bandage that hides the truth from thine eyes may fall off! May God forget the
rivers of blood, with which thou hast deluged the earth, and which thy reign has caused to be shed! May God blot out of his book the injuries which thou hast done us, and while he rewards the sufferers, may he pardon those who exposed us to suffer! O may God, who has made thee to us, and to the whole church, a minister of his judgments, make thee a dispenser of his favours, an administrator of his mercy!
I return to you, my brethren, I include you all in my benedictions. May God pour out his Holy Spirit upon all this assembly! God grant this year may be to us all an acceptable year, a preparation for eternity! "Drop down ye heavens from above, let the skies pour down righteousness, let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation."
It is not enough to wish for these blessings, they must be procured, and we must derive them from the source. It is not sufficient that a frail man utters benedictions in your favour, we must pray for a ratification of them by the happy God. We must go to the throne of God himself, wrestle with him, earnestly beseech him with prayers and tears, and "not let him go except he bless us." Magistrates, people, soldiers, citizens, pastors, flock, come let us bow our knees before the Monarch of the world: and you birds of prey, devouring cares, worldly anxieties, be gone, and interrupt not our sacrifice.
THE DIFFERENT METHODS OF
1 CORINTHIANS iii. 11-15.
Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones; wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
accursed!" Gal. i. 8, 9. Do we always keep
First, we will examine what gave occasion for the words-next, we will observe the design of the apostle in writing them-in the third place, we will explain the several figures made use of-and lastly, we will apply the subject to practice.
HAD rules of preaching sermons no connexion with those of hearing them, we would not have treated of this text in this place. Satisfied with meditating on it in the study, we would have chosen a subject in which you would have been more directly interested. But what doctrine can we preach to you, which does not engage you to some dispositions, that cannot be neglected without hazarding the great salvation, for the sake of which you assemble in this holy place? Are we such enemies to truth, or do we so ill understand it, as to teach you a doctrine contrary to that, which the Holy Spirit has laid down in Scripture? If so, you should remember the saying of an apostle, and, animated with a holy indignation, should exclaim, "Though you, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto us than that which we have received, let him be
I. The occasion of the text will appear by a little attention to the connexion in which it stands. St. Paul had been endeavouring to put an end to the divisions of the church at Corinth, and to destroy the party-spirit of the Corinthians. Ought we to be astonished, that churches are so little unanimous now, when we see diversity often among apostles and primitive Christians? If peace, left by Jesus Christ as an inheritance to his apostles, could not be maintained in churches gathered by these blessed men, where must we look for it? Perhaps, division was partly owing to the imprudence of some preachers in their primitive churches: but certainly their hearers had a chief hand in fomenting them. The teachers had different gifts, and their hearers divided into parties under their ministry. It is always allowable to distinguish men, who have received great talents from God, from such as have received abilities not so great; but these Corinthian Christians affected to exalt those of their ministers, who they thought, were men of the most eminent abilities, to the depression and discouragement of the rest, and under pretence of paying homage to God the giver of these talents, they very indiscreetly idolized the men who had received them. Moreover, they made as many different religions, as God had given different commissions, and different abilities to ministers to execute them. Each party at Corinth chose out of these pretended religions, that which appeared most conformable to its prejudices. The converted Pagans were for St. Paul, to whom the conversion of the gentiles had been committed, and who had brought them to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and they said, for our parts, 66 we are of Paul." Such as had a taste for eloquence were for Apollos, who was an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures," and they said, we are of Apollos." The converted Jews were for Peter, who discovered a great deal of moderation towards their ceremonies, and who had even "compelled the gentiles to live as the Jews did," that is to mix the simple worship of the New Testament with the ceremonial observances of the law, and they said, as for us, "we are of Cephas." And those Jews, who obstinately continued the ceremony of circumcision, pretended that they had no need
of the authority either of Paul, or of Apollos, or of Cephas, for the example of Jesus Christ, who had himself been circumcised, was sufficient for them, and for their parts, they were "of Christ."
St. Paul tells these Corinthians, that, as long as they should continue in this disposition, he should consider them as novices in the Christian religion, able at most only to understand the first principles, not to comprehend the whole design. He tells them, that there were in this religion "treasures of wisdom and knowledge," but into which men could never enter, who mixed their passions with truths intended to mortify them; and that this defect in them prevented him from attempting to lay before them these riches. "I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal, for whereas there is among you envying and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men," 1 Cor. iii. 1-3, that is, as men of the world?
Having reproved the folly, and repeated the descriptive censure, he leads them to the true motive that should induce them to avoid it. Although, as if he had said, the talents of your ministers are not all equal, yet they all received them from the same source, that is, from the grace of God; and how amply soever any of them may be endowed with abilities, they can have no success, except the same grace bestows it. "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, as the Lord gave to every man," ver. 5, that is, as the blessing of God accompanied their ministry? "I have planted, Apollos watered: but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase," ver. 8. A great lesson for those to whom God has given gifts to preach the gospel! A fine example of humility, which they ought always to have before their eyes! And what were the gifts, with which God enriched the first heralds of the gospel? What is a little vivacity of imagination, a little grace of elocution, a little reading, a little justness of reasoning? What are these talents in comparison with the gifts of men, who spoke several foreign languages, who understood all mysteries, who altered the laws of nature, who were dispensers of the divine power, who raised the dead, who slew the wicked with the breath of their lips, who struck dead at their feet Ananias and Sapphira, and to say more still, who were immediately conducted by the spirit of God in their ministry? Yet behold the man, who was first in this class of extraordinary men, behold this chosen vessel, behold the man who could say, "I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles," 2 Cor. xi. 5, behold him, doing homage for all his own talents, and all those of his colleagues, to that grace, from which they came, and which blessed the administration of them. "Who is Paul? Who is Apollos? He that planteth is nothing, he that watereth is nothing, but God that giveth the increase."
II. It was to be feared (we proceed to the design of the text,) it was to be feared, that under pretence that all the ministers of the gospel were united in one point of equality: under pretence that none of them were any more than servants of God, and canals by which he communicated himself to the church; I say it was hazardous, and much to be suspected, whether teachers themselves would not abuse this equality by applying what the apostle meant only of the abilities of preachers, to the very doctrines themselves which they taught.
If this were doubtful in regard to the preachers, it was no less so in regard to the hearers. People have, I think, a natural bias to superstition. They easily show that respect, which is due only to the character of a minister of the living God, to all that put it on, even to such as use it only for the perverting of the gospel, yea to those who endeavour to subvert it entirely. Because we ought not to hear the gospel in a spirit of chicanery and sophistry, it is supposed we ought to lay aside a spirit of discernment. Hence this way of speaking, so superstitious, and at the same time so common among us, that is, that whatever difference there may be in preachers, yet they all preach the word of God. But it is not impossible, that from a text which is the word of God, explications may be given, which are only the word of man. Not impossible, did I say! ] believe it seldom, if ever happens, that two ministers treat of one subject without at least one of them mixing with the word of God some expressions which are only the word of man. Why? Because the conformity of their sentiments can never be so perfect, but they will differ on some questions. Now, of two men, one of whom takes the affirmative side of a question, and the other the negative, one of them must of necessity, in this respect, preach the word of God, and the other the word of man. You should not, therefore, pay a superstitious attention to our discourses. You should not, under pretence that all your ministers thus preach the word of God, confound the word of God with the word of man. Whatever patience you may be obliged to have with our imperfections, you ought not equally to esteem two discourses, the greatest part of one of which you call, and have reason to call, the word of God, and the greatest part of the other the word of man.
The design of St. Paul in our text is to rectify our judgment on this subject. For this purpose he divides preachers into three classes. The first are such as preach the word of man, not only different from the word of God, but directly in opposition to it. The second preach the pure word of God without human mixtures. The third do indeed make the word of God the ground of their preaching, but mix with it the explications and traditions of men. The apostle characterizes these three kinds of preachers, informs us of their destination, and what account God will require of their ministry.
1. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid." This is directed against such ministers as preach the word of man in direct opposition to the word of God, or the doctrine